Posts tagged ‘entertaining’

November 25, 2013

Surviving Thanksgiving (as a Healthy Vegetarian)

thankful for vegetarians

Happy Monday, Friends! Brooke here. Thanksgiving is just around the corner . . . so close I can taste it (but not the turkey, of course!). A day devoted to gratitude, love, and sharing a delicious meal is a beautiful one, appealing to our better natures and reminding us to give thanks for our blessings. Plus, every now and then, a much better cook than you ends up doing most the cooking for everyone—jackpot!!

You may wonder how vegetarians manage to find a square meal during such a meat-centric holiday as Thanksgiving. Never fear! We veggies are a creative and resourceful lot, accustomed to finding our own way around buffet tables and family gatherings. When one chooses to take a road less traveled, one must rely on oneself for rations and supplies. As many vegetarians or vegans already know, you cannot expect your family and friends, no matter how loving, to cater to you alone when Thanksgiving dinner is served.  So help them out, ok?

Be a Gracious Guest

  • Ask your host or hostess what you can bring to dinner. Simply asking what you can do to help may relieve an enormous amount of pressure for your dinner planner. There’s a very good chance she’s been concerned about your meatless meal. And if you make your offer even before she asks you about your dietary preferences, you may become her favorite dinner guest ever!
  • Bring a healthy, veggie-friendly dish of your own. I would suggest doing this, even if your host tells you to just bring yourself and your appetite. This is a win-win for everyone involved: 1) you will actually have something clean to eat if you discover everything at the table is spiked with chicken stock or other “natural flavors” (more common than you think); 2) your impeccable manners will be noted and appreciated—you may even get an invite back next year; and 3) you can prove to any naysayers (usually these are family members) that your clean, compassionate food is much more delicious than the wallpaper paste that they all suspect it tastes like. Go ahead—wow ‘em!
  • Eat a snack beforehand. If the big meal is hours away and your stomach’s already growling, be sure to eat a little snack to tide you over. You don’t want your healthy eating to be destroyed when your plunging blood sugar drives you to fall crazily upon the sweet potato casserole! A nice green juice or smoothie plus some nuts or trail mix are excellent options—the veggies and fruit lift your energy while the protein and healthy fat in the nuts help fill you up and slow down that appetite. Another idea is Greek yogurt mixed with fresh berries and nuts or a protein shake with almond milk and a piece of fruit, such as a banana, grapes, or apple. This plan also works for weddings and other functions, where the promise of food is vaguely (cruelly) dangled sometime after the main event.
  • Be smart when you fill your plate. Mindful portion control (and healthy snacking ahead of time) is the key to avoiding the dreaded holiday food binge. Help yourself generously to green salad (and less generously to the dressing), steamed or sautéed vegetables, greens (if not cooked in meat stock), and the relish dish. Ah, what memories . . . the relish dish and I have become indifferent friends over the years. “Oh, look—something I can eat. Raw broccoli and carrots again . . . yippee.” You need more fuel than just green veggies, so have a moderate helping of quinoa or couscous if they’re around (maybe they will be, since you brought them!), rice, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, or stuffing if it’s meat- and meat stock-free (that’s a big if, usually). As for dessert, go ahead and enjoy a slice of your favorite pie. It’s Thanksgiving after all, people. Live a little! If you’ve been eating clean in your everyday life, you can handle a little holiday fun. Just keep your helpings in control, enjoy, and don’t feel guilty. The Stepmill will be waiting for you when you get back home.
  • Grin and bear it. If all else fails and you arrive at dinner without a meat-free or healthy fallback, do the best you can and do it with a BIG smile. Be kind and gracious if anyone voices concerns on your behalf—you don’t want to ruin dinner, do you? “Are you kidding? These green beans are amazing! And this cornbread is delish!” See? It’s easy.

May you always run out of time before you finish counting your blessings,

Brooke

September 4, 2013

Football Season—Time to Kick it into Gear!

Not sure about your home, but mine turns into a consistent gridiron gathering place until Valentine’s Day. If we’re not sitting in the stands at Cowboys Stadium, Kyle Field, Jones/AT&T Stadium, or Denton Ryan High School, we are at home, cranking up the surround sound, letting the fall breeze inside, and probably grilling something on game day. It’s not just the game either. It’s ESPN’s College Game Day, pre-game shows, and post-game recaps.

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“But Lacey—all of this sitting around in front of the tube doesn’t sound like healthy living to me.”

If you know me, or have followed my blogs for a while, you know that creativity and pure stubbornness will ensure the day will not go by without me conquering one hour of activity and proper nourishment. Because I love my “I want to be healthy but I’m a die-hard football fan” friends, I want to share some tips that help me get from Labor Day to Valentine’s Day without packing on the pounds or missing the games that matter most to us (Dallas Cowboys, Fightin’ Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Tech Red Raiders, and the Denton Ryan H.S. Raiders.)

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Become a melon head and serve up fruit in a helmet!

Nutrition Tips

–Eat before you go to the stadium. This is the easiest way to ensure you receive adequate nourishment and that you’re not starving at the game, eventually succumbing to poor food options at the stadium concession stand.

–Pack baggies of almonds/cashews and your favorite granola or seeds. All filling options to maintain blood sugar levels and satisfy cravings and nervous play times.  (If you’re not a fan of nuts, check out the different seed cluster products out now.)

–Most stadiums are limiting the size of purses and bags; so don’t fret with protein powders, or meal replacements. Football games are maybe three hours max… you can make it without a full meal.

–Bring a packet of your favorite rehydrate or energy drink (mine, of course, are Advocare’s Spark or Rehydrate products.) Tuck the envelope into your pocket or boot to mix with a bottled water purchase. Just say NO to concession sodas. Unless you’re doing post-game Burpees in the parking lot.

–If you must have a “treat,” find a friend and SHARE. Even I can’t turn away my bonus-son when he says, “OMG you’ve GOT to try Dr. Pepper with peanuts.” What? I mean… sure. The excitement in his voice and the fact he acknowledged my presence is more important to me than temporarily shocking my body. Your body can handle it.

My Favorite Game Watching Party Offerings

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Fresh Avocado Nachos

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Kabobs–your favorite foods on a skewer for easy eating!

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When the temperature drops, this will keep everyone warm.

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Activity Options (All you need is to move your body and get your heart rate up. This can also serve as commercial and half time entertainment.)

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My favorite power move!

Pre-Game Warm up and Stretch (one minute per move): 10-15 minutes total

Jog in place

Jump rope (jump with both feet)

Side hops

Touch your toes (or try)

Sit with feet out and touch your toes (or try)

Sit with legs crossed and walk hands out; hold

Lie down and twist; each side

Folk hands behind your back and pull down

Jump Jacks

High Knees

And end with one minute of jogging in place

Commercial Breaks: (for the length of each commercial)

Jump Jacks

Plank Holds

Push Ups

Abs Holds

Chair Pose Hold/Wall Holds

(Just keep cycling through these simple, effective, no equipment needed moves and you’ll collect around 25-30 minutes of activity DURING the game. Side note: When a commercial of mine comes on, double-time it! J)

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An extra workout for you to try!

Post-Game Rant: (You’re either angry or excited depending on who won, so capitalize on the energy flooding your body! One minute per move)

Quick Feet (pretend you’re quarterback; grab a football if you want)

High Knees

Side-to-Side Jumps

Lunge Run

Mountain Climbers

Plank Jumps

And everyone’s favorite… BURPEES!

The name of the game (so to speak) is to not sit still during game-watching events. Whether you’re in the stands or at a home watching party, move your body! Pretend you’re in the game. Challenge fellow party-attendees! Even bet on scores using pushups or plank sessions for the loser… whatever works for you, the event, and the guests with you. Be the change, friends! Let’s make America healthier during America’s Favorite Past-time: FOOTBALL SEASON!

Game on! –Lacey

August 7, 2013

‘Tis the Season for… Cinnamon!

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‘Tis the season… for cinnamon! I promise I won’t chat holidays just yet, although who doesn’t like a warm house filled with the aroma of cinnamon apple pie? That yumminess aside, I love knowing about the benefits of one of my favorite spices: Cinnamon! Nothing reminds us of the holidays quite like cinnamon does, but let’s not save such greatness for just the holiday season. I dare you to incorporate cinnamon year-round. Here’s why!

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Cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest-known spices and has healing properties that rival many other products on your spice rack. It’s natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant properties make it easy to have a love affair with cinnamon. Go ahead! Smell it, taste it, wear it… indulge! Try to incorporate it into your everyday routine to reap the most benefits. Not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions:

Brain Power Booster

It was found that smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory. Carry a cinnamon stick around with you, and take a whiff every so often to keep you focused at work or school.

Pain Reliever

Cinnamon is used to treat pain because it reacts with the hormone-like substance prostaglandin, which contributes to the contraction and relaxation of muscles. Sprinkle some in your bath water!

Diabetes Treatment

Studies have been conducted on diabetic patients, whom were each given one-quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon over 40 days, researchers observed that patients’ blood sugar levels fell as much as 30 percent.

Weight Loss

Because of cinnamon’s effectiveness in reducing insulin resistance – research reports that cinnamon triples insulin’s capacity to metabolize blood sugar – the spice can thus reduce hunger and sugar cravings, which leads to weight loss.

Menstrual Aid

Cinnamon has been used for centuries to help women with heavy menstrual bleeding. (You’re welcome!)

Circulation Booster

Cinnamon is commonly used to thin blood, which in turn increases circulation throughout the body. This not only helps to reduce pain in troubled areas but promises that oxygen is being supplied to the blood cells. Cinnamon is also a great dietary complement for heart attack survivors.

 Complexion Enhancer

Due to its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial qualities as well as its antioxidant power, cinnamon is effective in treating acne and skin blemishes. Mix 1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon with 3 tablespoons of honey, apply to the skin, and let the mixture sit for a few hours or overnight. Wash off with warm water.

Cold and Flu Reliever

Cinnamon is commonly used across East Asia and Europe as a warming herb for conditions involving the body to become cold. In these cases, cinnamon is combined with ginger to treat a cold or flu.

Yeast Infection Fighter

Cinnamon can be used to stop medication-resistant yeast infections. High blood sugar levels can lead to candida overgrowth, and cinnamon is helpful in lowering blood sugar levels. Cinnamon’s anti-fungal properties are also helpful in combating the effects of a yeast infection.

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My Favorite Cinnamon Uses

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If you have no time…

  • Add cinnamon to your vanilla protein shake
  • Sprinkle Cinnamon on apple or pear slices, dipped in cashew butter
  • Put cinnamon in your morning coffee to start your day off with zest
  • Having a spinach salad for lunch? Sprinkle some cinnamon on it!
  • Cinnamon on baked chicken shakes up an otherwise bland protein option

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If you have the time, here’s a favorite recipe…

Cider-Glazed Roots with Cinnamon Walnuts

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds assorted root vegetables, peeled (see Tip) and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Make yourself a warm cup of herbal tea.

2. If using parsnips, quarter lengthwise and remove the woody core before cutting into 1-inch pieces. Whisk cider, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish until the sugar is dissolved. Add root vegetables and toss to coat. Cover the baking dish with foil. Now, add cinnamon to your cup of herbal tea, and sip.

3. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and stir the vegetables. Continue cooking, uncovered, stirring every 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables are glazed and tender, about 1 hour more. Ask someone about their day… husband, children, or call and put a friend on speaker phone. Tell her you’re cooking but wanted to chat–you’ll make her feel important and special.

4. Meanwhile, place walnuts in a small skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and add butter, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Stir until the butter melts and the nuts are coated. Spread out on a plate to cool slightly. Tell the family something fabulous is coming!

5. Transfer the vegetables to a serving dish and sprinkle with the cinnamon walnuts. Give your favorite pup (or husband) a taste and celebrate their gratitude over such a yummy treat.

 (recipe compliments of http://www.eatingwell.com plus my own additions)

December 21, 2012

Spicy Lemon Chick’n Pasta

This is Brooke here, and I’m excited to share one of my favorite recipes with you. Spicy Lemon Chick’n Pasta is an elegant entrée that you and your family (or guests) will love. It’s become a staple in my house mainly because it’s super simple and because the ingredients are usually always around my kitchen. True, it is a meatless dish (you can tell by the apparently misspelled “chick’n”), but because I use a vegetarian meat substitute, even your most adamant carnivores will be happy. Proof: My husband, John (the non-vegetarian), loves it! Ok, here’s what you need:

  • 1-1½ c. cooked Barilla PLUS® Multigrain Pasta (I like farfalle, or bowtie shape—makes me happy somehow)
  • 3-4 Morningstar Farms® Buffalo Wing chick’n nuggets or 1 Quorn™ chick’n cutlet
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Good dash of fresh-ground black pepper
  • Good dash or two of red pepper flakes
  • A few curls of Parmesan cheese (optional)

Serves 1—adjust quantities for more servings

Simple Ingredients + 10 Minutes = Magic!

Simple Ingredients + 10 Minutes = Magic!

A Word About Some Special Ingredients

  • Barilla PLUS Multigrain Pasta: This pasta is the bomb! It’s multigrain and packed with protein and omega-3’s. Actually, 1 uncooked cup of this pasta supplies 17g of protein (!), 28% of the recommended daily value of ALA-omega-3 (plant-based fatty acid), and 7g of fiber. Plus, it tastes amazing, and if you fix the whole box, you can have leftovers for days. This is great news for us busy people!
  • Chick’n: Depending on my mood, I use either Morningstar Farms Buffalo Wings or Quorn Chick’n Cutlets. The Quorn cutlets are delicious and are extremely similar to regular chicken breasts—they make a fabulous substitute in chicken salad and other dishes. I usually lean toward hot and spicy, so I used the Morningstar Buffalo Wings. These sassy little bites bring a whole other dimension to the dish. Yum!

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions. For al dente, be sure to remove from heat and rinse/strain after cooking for 10 minutes. Cook chick’n selection according to package directions. In a separate bowl, mix olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes together with a whisk or fork. Get out a pretty pasta bowl, add your cooked pasta and your cooked chick’n, then pour olive oil/lemon mixture over everything, and stir well. If you like, you can add some Parmesan curls or grated Parm. Enjoy and wait for the compliments!

Pretty Pasta

Pretty Pasta

Have a great weekend, and stay warm and toasty!

~Brooke